"Whodunnit?! Murder tears family apart."
by Marco Marrese for remotegoat on 30/03/11

The Main Auditorium at the Southwark Playhouse has been transformed in a traditional living room of a well-off English family in the early 80s for this production of Eight Women by Robert Thomas. Anna Bliss Scully's (designer) attention to and profusion of details is unbelievable, with every element fitting together seamlessly and creating a very authentic atmosphere.
The direction (Elgiva Field) makes ample use of this setting to enliven the characters in their goings about, to gain depth (a few doors open to the outdoors and other rooms) and to involve the audience.
The engine of the play is the murder of the lone man in the house, killed in his bedroom at the back of the stage, behind the audience. This originates a series of suspicions and then cross-questioning by which we discover the hidden weaknesses, egoisms and travesties of the women and the misery of the man's life. Meanwhile, the tone of the play remains darkly comic until the final coup de theatre…

The all-woman cast is remarkable in many ways, even though sometimes the rhythm of the dialogue is unnaturally paced. Our judgement of most of the characters is wrong at the beginning and we change ideas as we get to discover their secrets but, in the end, we need to admit that there was "that something" in them and the transformation isn't that big of a surprise. The subtlety with which the actresses handle this is excellent.
Kate Ward (Susanna) shift from the pure, bright daughter/interrogator-in-chief to an unrepented delusion is totally unexpected, but then, it's a liberated society, what would you expect?! She is still the same sweet girl, she's just grown up. Sasha Waddel (sister-in-law) performs well as a hypochondriac and unreciprocated lover, even though her personality is way too one-dimensional compared with the others, while Tamara Hinchco (the mother-in-law) captures superbly all the mix of egoisms and complexities of old age infancy. Alice Anthony (as the bitchy maid) keeps well clear of the simple cliche of the "spiritless but dirty" aide and combines in a delightful comic duo with Maxine Howard (as the not-so-truthful long-term housekeeper).
Above all, it is the youngest in the cast, Sophie Kennedy Clark, that excels. Her performance as the teenager daughter (Catherine) is the deepest and most accomplished on the stage. Her acting conveys all the contradictions of the passionate personality of a kid that wants to be independent, but isn't quite there yet, and with her final monologue she takes the audience totally into to the final surprise.

With a few more performance to go, this is an entertaining night that you should not miss.

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